Kokic / International Federation
Namibia's Himba people
In the face of globalization, a small group
of tribal pastoralists living in north-western Namibia, the
Himba, have largely managed to retain their traditional way
of life. Sadly, some of their very customs and traditions
threaten to wipe them out.
Certain Himba cultural practices make them particularly vulnerable
to HIV/AIDS infection. They practice polygamy. Older men rich
in cattle tend to monopolize the women, taking several wives.
activity starts early. Women are wed through pre-arranged
marriages and most fall pregnant very young. Himba women suffer
from the highest maternal death rate in the country. Funded
by the American Red Cross, the Opuwo Red Cross branch started
a reproductive health project in 2001 addressing this and
"We teach the Himba and others about pre- and post-natal
care, contraception, family planning as well as, sexually
transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS," says reproductive
health coach, Reheza Tyiraso.
The Himba have begun to intermarry with the other tribes
— with the Zemba and the Herrero. By marrying out of
their tribe they have exposed themselves to HIV/AIDS. Last
year, there were seven reported cases of HIV/AIDS in and around
Opuwo including Himba.
Even if some Himba grasp the catastrophic implications of
HIV/AIDS in their community, it remains a daunting challenge
to convince everyone of the urgency of the problem.
"I think people will use condoms if they understand
why it is so important. It all depends on the information
provided," says Himba Red Cross volunteer Kautorona Muharukua.
The Himba people will have some difficult choices to make.
If they succeed in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in their
community, it will surely be at the cost of some of their
cherished cultural practices and traditions.
Meissner / ICRC
In September 2003, the ICRC organized with
the ministry of health and the Palestine Red Crescent Society
(PRCS) first-aid training sessions in Palestinian territories
including Ramallah, Gaza, Hebron, Jenin and Bethlehem. A total
of 360 people attended these courses. These courses are designed
for ambulance staff, nurses, medical doctors and emergency
room personnel. They are part of a training programme initiated
in 2001. This training concentrates on providing the necessary
skills to effectively respond to emergency calls in the current
context of the obstruction of movement of health professionals
and patients within the occupied territories. The ICRC cooperation
with PRCS includes dissemination of humanitarian law, tracing
and restoration of family
Florin / Fondation Hirondelle
The Henry Dunant Foundation awarded its
2003 prize to the Fondation Hirondelle for its outstanding
contribution in the field of media information in war zones.
The prize aims at acknowledging persons or organizations working
for the development and the renewal of Henry Dunant's ideals.
Based in Geneva, Fondation Hirondelle is producing independent
radio and other media programmes in war-torn and developing
countries, working alone or in partnership with the United
Nations. It has initiated Star Radio in Liberia, Blue Sky
in Kosovo and Radio Agatashya for Rwanda, Burundi and Kivu.
Today Fondation Hirondelle is running Radio Ndeke Luka in
the Central African Republic, the Information Agency at the
Arusha international penal tribunal, as well as Radio Okapi
in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
first for first aid
On Saturday, 13 September, some 100 Red
Cross and Red Crescent National Societies across five continents
celebrated the first-ever "World First Aid Day"
under the theme of: "First Aid — a gesture of humanity
which makes the difference". Events highlighted the importance
that simple gestures can make in saving lives and building
safer and more humane communities.
Every one of the 178 member societies of the International
Federation is engaged in first-aid programmes. "First
aid is an expression of solidarity, and solidarity is more
than just a worthy and heart-warming notion," says Markku
Niskala, the Federation's secretary general ad interim. "Solidarity
saves lives, not just in disaster situations but also in everyday
circumstances, in the workplace, on the road, on the beach,
in the home. Solidarity is a state of mind that enables people
to protect and support each other, regardless of race, religion
or ethnic group. Solidarity is caring and sometimes it's the
difference between life and death."
"First aid reaches all sectors of the population. Tens
of millions of people are cared for by Red Cross and Red Crescent
first aiders each year. Millions are also trained each year
in basic, life saving techniques, and at least as many lives
are saved," explains Dr. Eric Bernes, in charge of first-aid
programmes at the secretariat in Geneva. "First aid is
more than a technique — it is a smile, a hand on someone's
shoulder, a humane attitude. It is also more than an immediate
emergency response, it is also about prevention."
Practical examples are numerous around the world. In Kumasi,
Ghana, taxi drivers have been trained in first aid —
within the first year, more than 60 per cent had used their
skills. After the dramatic outbreak of SARS in Asia, first-aid
courses were effectively used to spread vital information
on basic hygiene measures. In the Philippines, first-aid training
has helped to integrate street
children back into the community. In Algeria, Red Crescent
volunteers continue to give victims of last May's devastating
earthquake essential psychological support. In Colombia, the
population relies on Red Cross volunteers for vital help to
victims of internal violence.
It is the ordinary people and volunteers, often non-professionals,
who mobilize themselves to provide that initial help and make
the difference, on a day-to-day basis and at the scene of
crisis. Red Cross Red Crescent first-aid education is about
instilling that vital confidence to act and change behaviour.
©Thierry Gassmann / ICRC
Prisoners back home
On 1 September, the ICRC repatriated 243
Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front. They included
13 officers, one of whom had been in captivity for 28 years,
together with 14 civilians. ICRC delegates, including two
doctors, spoke to each prisoner in private to establish that
he was returning of his own free will. The prisoners left
Tindouf (Algeria) on an ICRC-chartered aircraft and were handed
over to the Moroccan authorities at the Inezgane military
base, near Agadir. Since January 2000, the ICRC has repatriated
946 Moroccan prisoners. Currently, 914 others are still deprived
of their freedom, and over half of them have been held for
more than 20 years. Pending their repatriation, the ICRC is
continuing to visit them and to provide them with medical
care. The organization is also maintaining contact and delivering
Red Cross messages between prisoners and their families, delivering
parcels from the families and visiting them in Morocco. Considering
the deteriorating health of those still in captivity, the
ICRC has once again appealed for their immediate release,
in accordance with international humanitarian law.
A crucial mines
meeting in Bangkok
From 15 to 19 September, the Fifth Meeting
of the states parties to the Convention on the Prohibition
of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel
Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) was
held in Bangkok. The meeting took place at a critical moment.
With the Convention's First Review Conference scheduled to
take place at the end of 2004, it helped launch efforts to
ensure that governments arrive at next year's Conference prepared
to renew their commitment to the goals of the Ottawa Convention
and to its full implementation.
Six years ago, the adoption of the Ottawa Convention banning
anti-personnel landmines brought tremendous hope to mine-affected
communities around the world. Much has been achieved since
the Convention was adopted in December 1997. A total of 136
states have ratified or acceded to the Convention —
the most recent being Belarus (possessing some 4.5 million
anti-personnel mines) on 3 September. States Parties have
destroyed over 30 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines.
Mine clearance activities are ongoing in the majority of mine-affected
countries in the world. Most importantly, wherever the Convention's
rules are being upheld, lives and livelihoods are being saved
— the annual number of mine victims has fallen by as
much as two thirds in countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia,
Yet the Convention's ambitious deadlines for the complete
clearance of mines, beginning for many states in 2009, and
its long-term promise of care and rehabilitation to landmine
victims, will demand sustained political interest and increased
resources in the years to come.
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